Halloween is scary. Outside, gangs of ravenous children prowl the night in search of candy. Loud parties are filled with people wearing costumes often more terrifying than the monsters they are supposed to represent. That's why we suggest staying home, locking the door, grabbing some trick-or-treat candy, and watching some great Halloween films. Much like the candy you are about to eat, Halloween films come in all shapes and tastes. Some are sugarcoated and wrapped in colorful packages, while others are sweet and sour and packed with flavor.
As part of our celebration of Focus Features' 15th Anniversary, we’ve picked five films for your Halloween pleasure, each one a bit different, but just as scary and just as fun.
ParaNorman is scary fun for the whole family.
Sam Fell and Chris Butler’s stop-motion animated adventure ParaNorman tells the terrifying tale of Norman Babcock (Kodi Smit-McPhee), a kid from Blithe Hollow with an annoying sister (Anna Kendrick), a love for horror films, and the ability to talk to the dead. It’s the latter item that leads our hero to unwittingly become the center of a spookfest involving ghosts, zombies, and a centuries-old curse by a local witch. With frights as fun as they are scary, Screenrant names ParaNorman one of its “Awesome Halloween Movies For The Whole Family.”
Shaun of the Dead laughs in the face of danger.
Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead not only brought the zombie film back from the grave, but did so with an enormous amount of brains (both real and metaphorical). When Shaun (Simon Pegg) and Ed (Nick Frost) find their hangovers interrupted by a zombie apocalypse, they grab their cricket bats and get busy saving the world. Collider’s Adam Chitwood names it “my favorite Halloween Movie” because Shaun “is one of those rare films that refuses to get old. No matter how many times you’ve seen it, it remains hilarious and sweet.”
Raw presents a treat for discerning tastes.
Julia Ducournau’s startling debut Raw explores the nature of hunger, from its timid pangs of intellectual and sexual curiosity to its horrifying extreme. Named by Rolling Stone as “a Modern Horror Masterpiece,” Raw follows a young vegetarian (Garance Marillier) in her first semester at a veterinary school whose strange rituals and initiation rites push her into rethinking many deep-seated assumptions about gender, identity, and appetite. While a distinctly adult taste, Raw “is absolutely a celebration of female power—of realizing who you are, what you want and how to go after it, albeit with brutally bloody results,” proclaims RogerEbert.com.
Coraline conjures up a wondrous world.
Coraline, Henry Selick’s stop-motion animated adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s beloved novel, follows its 11-year-old heroine (voiced by Dakota Fanning) in her quest to uncover the mystery of her new house. One night she travels through a door in the wall to a mirrored world with an other mother (voiced by Teri Hatcher), a seemingly generous parent whose nefarious intentions are masked by the black buttons sewn over her eyes. For Newsweek, the film’s macabre ambience “brings major Halloween vibes with black cats and ghosts.” At the same time, its astonishing animation and handcrafted beauty is, as the AV Club exclaims, “nothing short of magical.”
A Monster Calls is a dark tale with a soft, sweet center.
J.A. Bayona’s A Monster Calls––adapted by Patrick Ness from his own novel––on its surface looks like a classic Halloween tale: a young boy, Conor (Lewis MacDougall), troubled by a family trauma with his mother (Felicity Jones), a stormy night, and a gnarled ancient tree that becomes a monster (voiced by Liam Neeson). But the film’s power doesn’t really come from things that go bump in the night, but the terrifying emotions we experience in everyday life. As Conor comes to accept the scary things in the real world, he makes peace with his nightmares as well, an act that gives the film its powerful emotional core. “If the ending doesn’t reduce you to tears, you may be the real monster,” suggests Entertainment Weekly.